Whittier Area Genealogical Society
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June 2, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
June 2024
Hal Bookbinder, our May speaker, addressed an area of growing concern to all of us who rely on our computers and other electronic devices for genealogy research, family finances, data storage, online purchasing, and our virtual social presence.  The focus of his presentation was aimed at how we can protect ourselves from becoming a victim of a cybercrime such as phishing and cyber-hacking.  He discussed various ways for us to minimize the risk of becoming vulnerable to the ever-increasing number of bad actors on the internet.
Summarizing his advice boils down to a few important items:
  1. Back up your computer – external hard drive, cloud storage, thumb drive, second computer.
  2. Independently verify suspicious contacts – contact individuals or companies directly.
  3. Create strong and varied passwords – consider using a password manager.
  4. Monitor statements, bills, and credit card reports – take action if necessary.
  5. Use anti-virus software on your devices – update as needed to counteract new scams.
  6. Limit what you share on social media – don’t make it easy for scammers to find you.
Prior to writing this article, I looked up the definition of artificial intelligence, and here is what I found:  AI is the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.  In other words, it is the science of making machines that can think like humans but can process large amounts of data far beyond the capacity of normal human beings.  Like it or not, we live in the age of robotics and super computers, and we need to be aware that with this technology come moral and ethical implications that we need to be aware of or we may find ourselves at a distinct disadvantage.
Hal warned us that the increasing sophistication of today’s cybercriminals will only get worse as artificial intelligence becomes more and more refined, thus making it even more difficult for the average individual to protect themselves.  However, do not despair, Hal has given us  tools to help protect ourselves and our personal data.  His directives for safe computing in the age of AI can give even the most novice computer user a way to protect the wealth of their genealogical research, personal income, and peace of mind.
May 1, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
May 2024
If you’ve ever traveled to a family reunion, you know the lure to acquaint yourself with your deeper roots by visiting various family haunts, homesteads, and – if you are like me –   graveyards.   Listening to Lisa Vogele’s presentation on heritage travel sparked both happy memories and a few regrets about two of my own genealogical and sightseeing vacations.
My first heritage trip was a small group tour to Ireland with my husband in August 2019.  It was organized by EF Go Ahead Tours in conjunction with Ancestry.com giving us a two-pronged experience – learning about the history of the Emerald Isle and learning more about and experiencing the lives of our ancestors.  The trip was well organized, our fellow travelers were friendly, and our Ancestry guide was knowledgeable and encouraging.  Ireland and the people were lovely.  However, because I didn’t prepare enough beforehand I missed an opportunity to visit my third-great-grandmother’s small community in Cork.  This is where Lisa’s genealogy research and travel services would have been very valuable.
Lisa’s “Roadmap for Traveling in Your Ancestors’ Footsteps” presents a valuable outline for planning a heritage trip.  Following her key points will almost certainly guarantee a successful and rewarding genealogical adventure:
  1. Start as early as possible when deciding to travel.  Research from home as much as possible.
  2. Get your genealogical “ducks” in a row.  Is your research up to date?  Get help if needed.
  3. Travel logistics are important.  Is your passport up to date?  Will you need a local guide?
  4. Organize your itinerary, but allow time for unexpected discoveries and surprises.
  5. Bring pedigree charts, photos, contact information, and a positive attitude. 
My second heritage trip in June 2023 began with a vacation in Norway before venturing to Sweden, and was much more successful.   I had been in contact with my third cousin, Curt Sundqvist, in northeast Västernorrland, Sweden before embarking on our trip.  We had already shared our genealogy research through Ancestry.com written back and forth. With Curt’s advice and chauffeuring skills, we were able to visit the original family homestead established in the 1600s and the church where our common second-great-grandparents were married.  This trip was a dream come true for me.  My mother had always been so proud of her Swedish heritage and instilled the same in me.  I know she would have loved to hear about everything we learned. 
Whether you travel around the world or across the country to experience the lives of your ancestors, Lisa emphasized that careful, organized planning is essential for a successful heritage trip.  Heritage travel reminds us that we carry within us the legacy of our ancestors.  Discovering our deep roots can be both enriching and a reward for years of diligent research.  By planning in advance, the journey is sure to be a memorable adventure.
April 1, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
April 2024
Back in September 2010, I began writing a collection of stories about my six ancestors who volunteered to fight for the Union during the Civil War.  Three were German-born immigrants, one was a Quaker, one was a fourth-generation American, and one was a fifth-generation American.  They represented New York, Kansas, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, and Pennsylvania.  Most of my information about these men was found on Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, Fold3.com, the Soldiers and Sailors Database on the National Park Service website, and two packets of information from the National Archives and Records Administration.  Obviously, I was very interested in Brian Rhinehart’s talk on I Have a Civil War Ancestor . . . Now What?
I have to admit, like all genealogists, once I found these ancestors I wanted to know as much as possible about every aspect of their lives, and that included their military involvement.  Hearing Brian describe the resources available from the National Archives, made me realize that I have only scratched the surface when it comes to completely researching my great- and multi-great-grandfathers.  Take Theodore Dennis Weed, my maternal great-grandfather who enlisted at the age of twenty in the New York 44th Volunteer Infantry as a Private in Company I.  He received a disability discharge for wounds received in battle at Fort Monroe, Virginia in July 1862.  To complete my research, I need to access his carded medical records for more details about his hospitalization and recovery.
Another ancestor I want to investigate further is my paternal third great-grandfather, Reinhold Karl “Charles” Anacker from Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany who enlisted to defend his new homeland at the age of thirty-three.  Charles was a saloon keeper in Atchison, Kansas when he joined Company F as a Private in the Kansas 1st Volunteer Infantry, leaving behind a wife and four- and one-year old sons.  Charles was reported wounded in battle at Wilson’s Creek, Missouri on August 10, 1861.  He was later sent to hospital where he contracted typhoid and died February 10, 1865.  Most of the information I have comes from Caroline Anacker’s application for a minor’s pension and the documentation she had to provide to prove their marriage.  Charles’s compiled military service and carded medical records may furnish a more complete picture about his time in service.
In addition to ordering the pension, military, and medical records for my remaining four ancestors, I need to expand my search into other possible sources of information.  Brian suggested searching for family bible records and letters home from the war.  To this I would like to add those wonderful old county histories, the 1890 Veterans Schedule, printed company histories, Civil War history books, Find A Grave, and GAR posts for clues to expand your knowledge.  To paraphrase Brian, there is a mountain of information out there about our Civil War ancestors, you just need to begin searching.
March 10, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
March 2024
In late 2022, I wrote a story for the WAGS Life Story Writing Group titled “Moving West – The Migration Patterns of My Ancestors.”  Little did I realize that my research to trace the movements of my ancestors would dovetail nicely with Mary Anne Vincent’s topic: “Forget GPS – You Need Maps.”  In the case of my recent maternal Swedish and paternal German immigrant families, I was able to use ships’ records, census and tax documents, and marriage records to follow their movements once they reached American shores in the mid-to-late 1800s.  It was a different story with my maternal and paternal ancestors who arrived in the mid-1600s and early 1700s. 
After Mary Anne’s talk, I decided to look for land records and accompanying maps for two of my early English ancestors.  One of them settled in Hartford, Connecticut in 1639.  The other came to Surry, North Carolina in 1797.  
Joseph Easton, my maternal ninth great-grandfather, was one of the founders of Hartford.   I found his information and a fabulous copy of a 1640 hand-drawn map on the website of the Society of the Descendants of the Founders of Hartford. This map detailed the parcels of land he purchased, and also included the parcels owned by another four of my early ancestors: Zachariah Field, John Haynes, Thomas Richards, and John Skinner.
Samuel Greenwood was my paternal sixth great-grandfather and second great-grandson of John Greenwoode, my original immigrant who arrived in the Virginia Colony in 1635. I searched Ancestry.com for land records and the Library of Congress for a map detailing the location of his 200 acre purchase.  Samuel applied for the purchase on May 10, 1797 and the survey was completed on November 11, 1799.  According to the document, the survey was accomplished using a “scale of 20 chains” to measure the various sides of the tract of land that bordered Mitchels River on the east near the confluence of the Yadkin River.  Once I had that information, I was able to locate a topographical map from 1794 to pinpoint the Greenwood tract. I can only assume that the large Yadkin River made the location of his land desirable for transporting goods to and from other communities along the river.
Now that my curiosity has been whetted, I plan to look for more records of land purchases and accompanying maps to fill in the history of my brave ancestors that set down roots in various locations in America.  I am particularly interested in finding a Sanborn Fire Insurance Map for William R. Glover, my paternal second great-grandfather. He was a blacksmith and wheelwright who set up his shop in Los Angeles in 1901.  I have a black and white photograph of him standing in front of his business located at 121 E. Lake Street.  I have a feeling that I’ll be spending many more hours on my computer over the next several months. 
Have you found any maps to augment your ancestors’ migration across America? 
February 7, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
February 2024
When many of us started out researching our ancestors, the tools at our disposal were pretty much limited to microfiche, microfilm, dusty records in county facilities, genealogical libraries, family heirlooms and bibles, and graveyard records.  However, since the completion of the human genome project in 2003, a new resource has entered our toolbox – genetic genealogy – or DNA for genealogy.  Our speaker, Cheri Mello, walked us through the four types of DNA and their usefulness and limitations for genealogical success.
According to Diahan Southard, the first thing we need to understand is that “DNA technology is a powerful tool that has the ability to transform the way you see yourself and your family members.”  Depending on which DNA test you are using, you could break down a brick wall, learn more about your ethnic origins, identify family connections, or open up a ‘Pandora’s Box’ of questions about family relationships.   
Cheri walked us through the four types of DNA useful for genealogical research, and the first thing she recommended was to determine  the correct test to use for the desired results.  Y-DNA is used to trace one’s father’s father’s father’s line, and only male subjects carry Y-DNA.  Mitochondrial, or mtDNA, is present in both males and females and follows the mother’s mother’s mother’s line and the results are more a tracing of humankind than genealogical relationships, but can confirm or contradict if you are following the correct paper trail.
Autosomal DNA or atDNA is the most common type of DNA testing and is offered by 23andMe, AncestryDNA, Living DNA, MyHeritage DNA and Family Tree DNA.  Testing this type of DNA gives us two different kinds of results:  maps and percentages that tell us where our ancestors may have come from, and possibly a shared common ancestor within a genealogical timeframe of between 200 and 500 years.  Because several of these companies specialize in different regions, we may want to test with every company so as to avoid missing any matches.  It is up to us and our pocketbooks.
The final type of DNA test is the X-Match which is included in atDNA testing.  The X gene is passed to the child from each parent and can be helpful when searching for a biological father missing in your family tree.  Cheri suggested building a fan chart to follow the trail of X inheritance.
The key to success in genetic testing is to properly assess your DNA results.  Test results don’t always answer your genealogical questions, but by sifting, filtering, clustering and triangulating your findings with your paper research, you can confirm that you are on the right path, direct your research into a new direction, or break through a long-standing brick wall.  Take the tests, ask the right questions, and analyze your results.  Start putting DNA to work for you.
January 10, 2024 By: Kristina Newcomer
January 2024
I look forward to our guest speakers every month, but our member Show and Tell holds a special place in my heart.  I can’t wait to learn about a new discovery, a rediscovered artifact, a mystery solved, or a new branch added to a family tree.  Who wouldn’t want to share in the excitement generated by a friend’s family history discovery?  This year’s Show and Tell didn’t disappoint.
Our Program Director, Christine Cohen, spoke about her Owen Family descendants, specifically the offspring of Samuel Benjamin Owen.  While tracing the Owen line, she discovered that the paper trail they left behind created some confusion.  Names were spelled differently, dates and ages didn’t always match, and new names popped up while others disappeared from the printed record.  Obituaries, burial records, and newspaper articles left her scratching her head.  Her suggestion: “Don’t always believe what you read in the newspaper, be creative in your searches, and trust but verify!”  Good advice for all genealogists.
Cyndy Hartman, our Publicity Director, told us about her fifth great-grandfather, Colonel Ellis Cook, a Revolutionary War Soldier.  Colonel Cook was born in New York in 1732 and died in New Jersey in 1797.  He was a farmer, tavern owner, and politician.  Cyndy shared photographs of the Cook Halfway House – which is on the National Register of Historic Places – and his elaborate headstone.  Her research has identified his two wives, his children, and has helped to expand her extensive family tree. 
Next, it was my turn to take the microphone and talk about My DNA Journey.  I began my PowerPoint program by introducing my parents, Jean Weed and Walt Weis, with a photo of their wedding in 1948 and noted that from a young age I knew that I had German, English, and Swedish ancestors.  I was able to both reinforce, refine, and expand this knowledge through DNA testing.  I tested with Ancestry.com and the now-concluded National Geographic Genome Project. My brother tested with Family Tree DNA, thereby completing the DNA trifecta of atDNA, mtDNA and Y-DNA.  Isn’t science fascinating?
Bonnie Morris, a long-time member and frequent presenter, told us about a telephone call from a cousin telling her of the passing of a relative and the discovery of the obituary and photo.  She also spoke about finding an old wooden box containing her father’s tap and die tools for his plumbing trade.  She related the story of how her parents eloped and came to California in 1926 and how she used to watch him use his tools to create screw threads on pipe.  Her next project is to research the origins of the box itself.  Happy hunting, Bonnie!
Have you been looking for a new way to share your family research without resorting to ordinary genealogy forms?  Trish Garcia, our Parliamentarian, told us about her latest project – a zine – that you can share at your next family gathering!  She took a class on how to use Canva to create a miniature “zine” with photos, information, and artwork to fold and hand out to family and friends.  This may be a way to get the younger generation involved in genealogy, or at least pique their interest.
Our last speaker was Owen Newcomer who created a Google Earth project about his  Mennonite ancestors who immigrated from Switzerland to Pennsylvania in the early 1700s.  He included photos and snippets of family history for each location where his Newcomers landed, including Maryland, Illinois, California, Virginia, and back to California.  He told us that he enjoyed making the presentation and would probably be adding more information and details to the story so that he could show it to his extended family at the next reunion. 
I am looking forward to next year’s Show and Tell because I learn something new every time!

December 1, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
December 2023
Jeanette Sheliga’s program in November titled,  Above the Fold: Your Ancestors in the News, showed us how we can locate information about our ancestors by delving into the thousands of titles and millions of pages of newsprint available online today.  She spoke about locating a tombstone for her McGinity family that listed the deaths of three young children all in the same year, 1877.  What had happened to this family?  She found her answer in a newspaper article that related a scarlet fever epidemic had claimed the children within days of each other.  Without this article, their deaths would have remained a mystery.
Jeanette outlined her basic research steps for us: 
1.  State your objective or research question.
2.  Determine where and when the event occurred.
3.  Check out which newspapers are available within the research parameters, and
4.  Don’t overlook non-online options such as libraries, historical societies and home sources.
Be sure to coordinate your search with other resources, such as censuses, old photographs, important celebrations, court and estate records, and maps to secure the best possible results. 
Listening to Jeanette’s talk brought back a memory about my grandmother, Dody (Doerges) Weis’s siblings.   Grandma Dody had three younger siblings: Robert, Fred, and Edward.  Growing up, the Doerges clan was very close, all except the youngest brother, Edward.  There seemed to have been an estrangement in the family, and I never met my granduncle Edward or his family.  It wasn’t until my father, Walt Weis, read of his uncle’s death in The Union Democrat in June 1994 and realized that his uncle had been living in Sonora, California for the previous eight years, just ten miles from where his sister Dody was living in Twain Harte, California. 
Dad explained that in 1947 Dody and her brother had feuded about his choice of spouse, and they had avoided each other ever since.  The saddest lines in the obituary were, “He leaves no known survivors.  No services have been planned.”  In actuality, all three of his siblings were still alive in addition to numerous nieces, nephews and cousins. 
After finding Edward’s obituary, I made it a point to locate as many obituaries as possible for my extended family.  It is amazing what you can find in these snapshots of our ancestors lives.  Since I am the family historian/recorder, it has fallen to me to write the obituaries for my immediate family.  I wrote my mother’s in 1992, my grandmother’s in 1997, and my father’s in 2010.  I will probably help my husband when the time comes to write his mother’s obituary.
In addition to locating obituaries, don’t overlook those interesting tidbits that make genealogical research so rich.  I have found court notices about opposing sides in a estate dispute, as well as photographs and stories about famous fires in Los Angeles that both my grandfather and father fought as part of the Los Angeles Fire Department.  I have clippings about my uncle when he ran for Sheriff in Arizona and his time as a singing cowboy for Universal Studios in the 1930s.  My mother saved articles about my days as a swim team member at Los Angeles Valley College. 
So much information is out there just waiting for us to find it.  What have you found?  
November 1, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
November 2023
The October 21st presentation by our own Christine Cohen on those “Mysterious Codes” found on immigration manifests gave me just the nudge I needed to look for information on my oldest nephew’s maternal second great-grandparents, Jacob and Teresa (Kamershine) Halop.  The reason I chose this couple was that they fell into the immigration and naturalization “sweet-spot” of arriving after 1891 and into New York’s Ellis Island, sailing from Liverpool after leaving their ancestral homeland of Tiraspol, Russia.  Since none of my direct ancestors fit into the “sweet spot,” the Halop family was my best option.
Using Christine’s excellently researched handout as my guideline, I began my search on Ancestry.com and ran head-long into a dilemma – I couldn’t find the Halops on any immigration forms.  I did find Jacob on not one but two Declaration of Intent applications, one in 1910 and another in 1920.  On both, he listed his arrival date – 14 June 1906 from Liverpool on the S. S. Oceanic.  I also located the family living in Brooklyn, Kings County, New York in the 1910 U.S. Census.  Logically, they had to be somewhere in the immigration database.  But, where were they?
Then I remembered that Christine said during her talk, “ticket agents can make mistakes.”  Taking this approach, I searched through manifests for the Oceanic arriving in June 1906, and I found them listed as the Jaukob family.  The ticket agent in Liverpool mistakenly listed the entire family under the father’s first name.  Listed were his wife, Teresa, daughters Clara and Elizabeth, and son, Abraham.  An additional clue was the name listed under the column heading: Whether going to join a relative or friend; and if so, what relative or friend, and his name and complete address.  Their contact person was a  B. Kamershine of 307 Bushwick Avenue, Brooklyn, New York – Benjamin Kamershine was Teresa’s brother.
Now that I had found them, the next step was to locate the various notations listed on the manifest.  I took advantage of one of the references listed on Christine’s handout, https://www.jewishgen.org/infofiles/Manifests/ and it really helped.  In the far left column of the manifest was the ridiculously small contract ticket number 18206 issued in Liverpool.  Scanning further along the page I found 2X140738, 505, 5-22-24.  These numbers gave me the district (2), the application number (140738), the verification form number for the INS (505), and the reference date.  I next went to the Outbound Passenger Lists for UK & IRE on Ancestry, but became frustrated  because searching for their names became a guessing game.  I tried the original spelling of the family name, the mistaken family name and numerous variations on a theme.  No luck as yet, but I’ll keep checking back.
One last fun item I found on the manifest was listed under the heading of who paid the passage.  On Jacob’s line it said “self, $73,” on Teresa’s line it said “husband,” and on little seven-year old Elizabeth’s line it said, “father, $8.50.”  I found that utterly delightful.
My next target of research will be my nephew’s maternal grandfather, Brian John McDermott from Ballymoney, County Antrim, Ireland who immigrated to New York in 1923. Let us know about your successes in researching your immigrant ancestors.
September 29, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
October 2023
If you are looking for a new way to increase interest in your genealogical research among your family members, look no further than Google Earth.  Tamara Hallo’s program about creating a visual presentation of our family history using a fun, free, powerful asset is right at our fingertips. 
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Google Earth, it is a “geobrowser that accesses satellite, aerial, and street view images giving us a 3D representation of the world.”  Simply put, it is a program we can download on to our computers that allows us to access the world in a new and exciting way to make custom projects to showcase our genealogy. 
Tamara walked us through the steps needed to begin our genealogical projects utilizing this technological  resource.  If you haven’t done so already, you will need to download Google Chrome to your desktop or laptop computer (https://www.google.com/chrome/).  If you don’t have a Gmail account, you will need to create one.  Once these steps are completed, click on the Google Earth icon to begin your project.  When a project is created, it is automatically saved to the cloud so it is easy to access, edit, and share.  Tamara’s clear and understandable step-by-step process – detailed on her handout – encouraged our attendees to think of Google Earth as one more way to preserve our research and encourage younger generations to learn more about their family history.
What drew my attention to this method for preserving my family history was the ability to upload photos, documents, videos, and music to the project to complement the factual elements of my research.   My first project will be to trace the migration pattern of my German second great-grandfather, Anton Weis, from Steinbach, Baden-Württemberg to St. Charles, Missouri in 1858, adding documents, photos, and descriptions to enhance the story of his life.
As an example of the interest shown in Tamara’s presentation, by the time I returned home after the WAGS meeting, my husband, Owen, had created his first Google Earth project with ten slides tracing the migration of his Swiss ancestors to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the early 1700s.  I hope that more of our members take advantage of this marvelous technology to create their own stories and share them with us at our December Show & Tell.  Let Google Earth put the world into the palm of your hand.
September 2, 2023 By: Kristina Newcomer
September 2023
We’ve all been there at one time or another.  You know, searching over and over for that one record that will open up the floodgates and solve that genealogical mystery that has haunted us forever.  We’ve tried everything to find our “missing link,” or have we?  According to Mark Cross, there could be many reasons why we cannot find the records we seek.  His talk, “How To Find Records When You Can’t Find Records” was informative, entertaining and brimming with work-arounds to help us in our quest for finding those elusive answers we seek. 
Mark’s humorous tale of searching for one of his Cross ancestors and finding him indexed under the name Craps reminded us why our “reasonably exhaustive” searches can sometimes be just plain exhausting.   This is where we need to expand our thinking about overcoming the errors in indexing and lost, unavailable, or non-existent records.  Instead of narrowing our search parameters, we need to look to other repositories, indexes, books, libraries and archives.  What if we still can’t find the record we need?   Indirect records or DNA can be helpful.
According to the Board for Certification of Genealogists, “accuracy is fundamental to genealogical research.  Without it, a family history would be fiction.”  To avoid writing a fictional account or falling into the recurring brick wall backwater, Mark strongly recommended several important steps that we need to incorporate into our research.  The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “How do I know my research is sound?”  By applying the Genealogical Proof Standard we will be guaranteed that what we find and record will be sound.
One of Mark’s key recommendations was to keep a research log.  This important tool can organize and track our research work, prevent needless repetition, or overlooking possible resources, and focus our efforts on our specific research plan.  A good research log helps to show the quality of the research, lists what has and has not been found, organizes documents, and reduces duplication of effort.  Always a good thing.  In addition to a research log, he recommended keeping a timeline of the ancestor in question so as to avoid missing possible avenues of research. 
I, for one, am convinced that it’s time for me to practice what Mark preached.  I have downloaded the free research log from FamilySearch.org and will combine it with a timeline when I hit my next brick wall ancestor.  How about you?  Let us know if you found the proof you sought.